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Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures

3.2  ·  Rating Details ·  3,193 Ratings  ·  561 Reviews
The enchanting story of a midwestern girl who escapes a family tragedy and is remade as a movie star during Hollywood’s golden age.

In 1920, Elsa Emerson, the youngest and blondest of three sisters, is born in idyllic Door County, Wisconsin. Her family owns the Cherry County Playhouse, and more than anything, Elsa relishes appearing onstage, where she soaks up the approval
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by Riverhead Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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This is all Donna Tartt's fault.

As with The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, I wish I wish I wish I'd read this book before I read The Goldfinch. Seriously you guys, that fucking book is so good that it makes everything else seem like bullshit.

I mean, I was excited about this book for a long time! Emma Straub is kind of a big deal in the Brooklyn lit scene. She is universally known for being really nice and also very talented, and I don't recall hearing anything bad about this book at all. I definit
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I made the mistake of thinking Laura Lamont was some lesser-known film star with whom I wasn't familiar. Turns out she came straight from Emma Straub's imagination. The author did a lot of research about the golden age of Hollywood, and she put great care into the development of her story. Sorry to say, without any actual Hollywood touchstones, there's not enough stardust to keep it interesting.

The novel is rather bland and lacks the tang of reality. Even the film studios, execs, and names of o
Candace Cobb
Oct 09, 2012 Candace Cobb rated it it was ok
Shelves: drama
I had such great hopes for this book. I heard Emma Straub on NPR talking about the book, realized she was Peter Straub's daughter (who doesn't love Peter Straub??), and I liked the subject matter. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations.

The book is told soley through the point of view of the main character, Laura Lamont, who is one of the most vapid characters ever written. Life rolls over her, and she just let's it happen, over and over again. She is completely inactive. The only mo
Aug 17, 2012 Edan rated it it was amazing
I can't really judge this novel objectively as the author is a dear friend of mine. We were in our nonfiction workshop at Oberlin together! I attended her Russian Nightclub house party! We've double-dated! Emma and I got reacquainted a few years ago, after college, and found we had much in common, particularly that were both (still) writers and lovers of books. I have been SO excited to read her debut novel! It didn't disappoint.

I love the prose here: it's as milky and winsome as the book's name
Aug 13, 2013 Charlie rated it it was ok
There is a definite possibility that I won't finish this book. The writing style isn't bad but the characters are bland and boring. It's like a dish cooked with no spices, not even a dash of salt & pepper. The main character, Laura (aka Elsa) has no definition. She is just there. I can imagine that if I could hear her voice it would be filled with sighs, monotone, languid. Nothing seems to get a spark or a reaction out of her. She just accepts whatever takes place, good or bad. Is she insecu ...more
Patrick Brown
I had a dream a few nights ago that I was living in Hollywood. I don't mean to say that I'd moved back to that horrible, horrible apartment I lived in for years in the early 2000s, but rather that I was in the entertainment industry. More specifically, everyone I knew--from my friends, to my sister, to one of my co-workers--had been cast in a movie. It was a big musical, the kind they don't make anymore, really, and it was all anybody could talk about. One day, I rode to work with my sister and ...more
Apr 13, 2016 Dan rated it it was ok
Originally published in Time Out New York

Emma Straub’s recent short fiction collection, Other People We Married, was well received and praised by literary luminaries from Dan Chaon to Lorrie Moore. So it follows that the Brooklyn bookseller’s debut novel would be highly anticipated.

Unfortunately, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures fails to meet the author’s lofty ambitions. Blond, ordinary theater brat Elsa Emerson leaves picturesque Door County, Wisconsin, and transforms into alluring Golden Age H
Dec 01, 2012 Brenda rated it it was ok
I imagine that the golden age of Hollywood would give a writer a wealth of stunning things to write about. After all, some of the star's actual lives were more salacious than the ones being acted on on the screen. Did Emma Straub take this and run with it? Absolutely not.

Straub is a good writer. And the beginning of the book, set in Wisconsin, did trick me into thinking this book would be a grand old time. However she made a woman who could have been a fabulous, glamorous independent dame into
Apr 04, 2013 Lauren rated it it was ok
It wasn’t until after I finished this book that I realized the title might have two meanings: the obvious one (that it relates to a film star’s life) and the thematic one (that this is a novel as told by a series of snapshots of the titular character’s life). Now, I might be completely wrong about the dual meaning (I haven’t seen the latter referenced in any press on the book, although I haven’t looked that hard), but the dual meaning makes me like the novel slightly better so I’m sticking with ...more
Jun 26, 2013 Caroline rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book so much more than I did.

As a huge fan of movies from the 30s-40s, I began this book with quite a bit of knowledge about the studio system and the time period itself, so I was hoping this book would be a fictional treat to satiate my love of the "Hollywood golden age."
Not quite.

For a book that has a premise of taking place in said era, most of it does not. The plot largely consists of Laura's fade-out, her fizzle into obscurity. I found that I really didn't buy it when
Jul 13, 2012 Erica rated it it was amazing
There's always a nervousness that accompanies reading a book written by someone you know. I get a minor version of this quite often when I sit down to read a book by an author I'm working with, but it's infinitely worse when it's a friend. What if you don't like it? How will you ever talk to that person again if their writing sucks?

Luckily, my feelings about Laura Lamont are the complete and total opposite. I LOVED this book, the story of a Hollywood actress from her childhood in 1930s Wisconsin
Wheee! This is my first Goodreads "First Reads" giveaway win!

CAUTION: The review below contains some mild spoilers.

August 12, 2012
Though I'm not quite halfway through the book, I have much to say, so I'll start my comments here. This is hard for me, because I really want to like this book, and I feel that Emma Straub is an author I want to encourage, but I have some issues with the novel so far.

For me, the book is a little slow to get going. I would have started the book with the second chapte
My father was a child of the great movie studios. At the ripe old age of 4 or 5 he made the transition from Vaudeville to Fox Studio, and had several silent films under his belt as "Little Eli." He also was in a precursor to the Little Rascals, called the Sunshine Kids. One made it; one didn't. He used to talk about Jackie Coogan as his big rival. We have posters and pictures, and at least a copy of one film he was in. As a child, it fueled my imagination to think I could have been the daughter ...more
Sep 18, 2012 christa rated it liked it
Say we were all sitting around a table right now. A big bowl of tortilla chips, a rainbow array of San Pellegrino flavors at the ready. We’d just chipped the Yahtzee cup from overuse. We all took turns sighing dramatically until I suggested a way to kill time:

“I have an idea. What if we all tried to imagine the life of a young girl from the Midwest who makes for California and is built into a good old fashioned Hollywood starlet?”

We would, undoubtedly, create something that sounded a lot like
Annabel Smith
Dec 23, 2012 Annabel Smith rated it liked it
Shelves: usa, 2012, mental-health
It didn't knock my socks off. The story felt a little predictable, especially the first half of the book which chronicles the title character's rise to stardom - I felt like things were being described to me which I had already seen for myself (i.e. cliches). Some of the characters felt quite one-dimensional (her first husband, for example, felt like a vehicle to progress the action in a certain direction).

Later on, when life gets tough for Laura, I found it more interesting but even then I wasn
Crystal Starr Light
Oct 02, 2012 Crystal Starr Light rated it really liked it
Elsa Emerson is a young girl living in Wisconsin, with parents who run a theater, when her older sister, Hildy, dies tragically. When Elsa grows up, she married Gordon Pitts, a young actor, and heads out to Hollywood to make her debut. There, she becomes Laura Lamont, finds love, and learns to deal with the past, enjoy the present, and look forward to the future.

NOTE: I received this through the Amazon Vine Program.

There is nothing more glittery than the Golden Years of Hollywood, which is what
Feb 24, 2013 Clare rated it liked it
It feels like I've read this book before... Even though I haven't. This book read like a Danielle Steel novel - beautiful young thing with a tragic childhood event comes to Hollywood, finds great love, loses great love, overcomes tragedy.

This book spends only a brief time on the transformation of Elsa Emerson into Laura Lamont, and instead focuses (disproportionally in my mind) on Laura's life after she is out of the Hollywood business. Laura is widowed and her husband's death leaves a gaping f
Jun 05, 2012 Laura rated it liked it
The old days of the studio system will perplex many readers: how could anyone want to be a star badly enough to allow a stranger to change your name... you hair color... your marital status... your sexual orientation... your accent... your talent? This book goes some of the way towards explaining that.

Laura was born Elsa, a Wisconsin girl of strong Norwegian stock. Her father runs a summer stock theatre, and she and her sisters Hildy and Josephine help out with the cooking, cleaning and other re
When I was a about 11, I discovered The Bookateria, a used paperback bookstore with good prices in Ocean City,NJ, and I spent a few years tearing through Sidney Sheldon, Jacqueline Susann, and Danielle Steel books, among others. This book reminds me of Sidney Sheldon's rags-to-very-glamorous-riches stories, but with better writing. The nostalgic Sidney-Sheldon-ness of this book can be the only explanation for why I finished it. The writing really wasn't that good. There's not a very fully realiz ...more
Nov 14, 2012 Jody rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I very rarely abandon books part way through. I'm eternally optimistic it will get better, even if it starts off slow. I did that for about half of Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures, but now I'm done. The writing is sophomorically passive (and as a sophomoric, passive writer myself, I know whereof I speak). It's "First she did this, then she did that, and when he said this, she felt this way about it" with some flowery description thrown in every so often from the very first page. The characters a ...more
Stuart Smith
Oct 15, 2012 Stuart Smith rated it it was ok
I picked up this book because the title struck me as a line from one of those great campy songs. Unfortunately, that is where my love affair with the novel stopped. It never quite became what I wanted it to be. The characters were trite and the story line was rushed and more often than not it was forced into being a story I've heard before. It was clear that the author has a great fascination and appreciation for the Golden Age of screen, and it is for that reason that it may have suited her bet ...more
Jul 17, 2012 g rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2012-read
Don't you hate it when people say that the characters in a book weren't "believable?" I do, too, but this was one of the problems I had with Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures. I was absolutely in love with what this novel could have been. I was drawn to the setting and the idea of a starlet who came from Nowheresville, USA. I felt like more time could've been spent on developing Laura Lamont. There were times when we are told, not shown, what Laura's passions are but I finished the book unconvince ...more
Gabi Coatsworth
Nov 01, 2012 Gabi Coatsworth rated it really liked it
Terrific debut novel from Emma Straub. The writing is lovely, the plot rather like a black and white movie,and the characters believable and likeable. What more can one ask of a novel one is reading by flashlight after Hurricane Sandy has done its thing? An escape into a different world where family relationships are as real as Hollywood isn't.
So it would seem that I have made good on the promise I made in my review of Other People We Married to read everything Emma Straub writes. I read The Vacationers and Modern Lovers shortly after each of their respective publication dates, actively anticipating their releases -- as I will do for all of her future novels -- but I skipped out on Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures for several years. Not for lack of interest in old Hollywood, but because it appeared humorless.

I have the same standards
Jenn Ravey
Sep 05, 2012 Jenn Ravey rated it liked it

Elsa Emerson grows up walking the boards at her family's playhouse in Door County, Wisconsin in the 20s. Her childhood is full of costumes, actors and actresses running through dappled sunlight, and nights under the stars watching magic on stage until her older sister gets involved with one of the actors and has her heart broken. Devastated, Hildy kills herself, and the playhouse and Elsa's life change forever. Determined to recapture some of the pleasure of those heady nig
Sep 19, 2016 77mswoods rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much. Finally, a heroine that I don't love to hate or hate to love. Elsa Emerson/ Laura Lamont is vulnerable as well as secretly powerful, drab as well as glamorous, and lovely as well as selfish; in short, she is a real human.

Having read all of Straub's novel work at this point, and having read Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures last is interesting. To me, this is the pinnacle of Straub's writing- since Laura Lamont it's seemed to me that Straub is writing more for her audienc
From a summer playhouse theatre on a Wisconsin farm to an award-winning star, this novel is an intoxicating blend of the siren's song of the stage and the dreams of a little girl. Encompassing the life of Elsa Emerson over a period of close to fifty years beginning in 1929, this piece is less to do with star-struck wannabees and drug-addled has-beens but more to do with love of family and love of acting as Elsa becomes Laura Lamont. Several tragedies play out that propel Laura to become what she ...more
Linda LaRoche
Jan 13, 2013 Linda LaRoche rated it it was ok
Emma Straub sets the stage in Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures with the opening chapter about Elsa's youth. Her parents run a summer stock theater in Door County, Wis., and shortly after the novel opens in 1929, 9-year-old Elsa gets her first part and her first taste of applause, "the most beautiful song she had ever heard." The next day, she finds her 19-year-old sister hanging from a beam in the bedroom. Beautiful, high-strung Hildy's suicide gives Elsa a load of guilt she carries with her when ...more
Oct 30, 2012 Jeannine rated it did not like it
This is just not a good year for reading for me.

Saw this book hyped on a blog I read. Apparently the New York Times Magazine did an article about this author and this book. In the article she described the spark for the idea of the book came from the life of classic movie star Jennifer Jones. Classic movies being a particular passion of mine, and Jennifer Jones being a particular favorite of mine, I was immediately intrigued.

The author said she went her own way with the story, so it isn't REALL
Sep 02, 2012 Telaina rated it liked it
Shelves: rumpus
I would give this about 3.5 stars actually. I'm taking a star and a half off because Laura was such a simplistic character with no inner life. She had no idea about people's motivations, or her own... which I guess might be realistic of a young woman in Hollywood, but I found harder to believe as the book progressed and she aged. Her love was simple. Her grief was simple. She didn't have the depth or human complexity to carry a novel that would grip you or change your life. She did have enough h ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: laura lamont's life in pictures 1 4 Oct 07, 2012 03:12PM  
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Emma Straub is the New York Times‒bestselling author of The Vacationers, Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures, and the short story collection Other People We Married. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, Elle, and Condé Nast Traveler, and she is a contributing writer for Rookie. Straub's work has been published in fifteen countries.
More about Emma Straub...

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“It was nice to be in such close physical proximity, even though they hadn't spoken in months, and only via cursory birthday cards and the like. In the end, it didn't matter. Sisters were sisters.” 4 likes
“She wanted the world to stop and take notice before hobbling forward, forever changed. The problem was that no one seemed to be changed but her.” 3 likes
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